Explanation of the Codes


The Shorthand Dance Notation Code has been developed to record dance steps in real time as they are taught in a class or workshop. Its main purpose is to show at a glance, all the steps of a dance, and to serve as an efficient and convenient way to review a forgotten dance. This catalogue contains more than 900 dances from beginners to advanced. The shorthand notation does not record hand movements and for partner dances, only the male role in the dance is recorded.

1. introduction

A dance has a number of main elements that are coded. These are:

1.1 Direction of Movement

Absolute direction is specified with reference to the circle as viewed from above. The main directions are in or out of the circle along a radial line, indicated by i or o, and clockwise or anti-clockwise along the circumference indicated by c or a. For actions carried out on the spot a full stop (.) is used. Turns and pivots are described as being clockwise, by T and p and anticlockwise by T and p.

The letters r and l are reserved to indicate the right and left foot. Unless stated otherwise the circle and partner dances are started facing anti-clockwise along the circle line. A starting orientation other than anti-clockwise at the commencement of a dance is indicated by one of the letters i, o, or c at the beginning of the dance notation. Although the orientation at any point of a dance can be worked out by following the steps from the beginning of a dance, it is sometimes helpful to include the actual orientation at a beginning of a section particularly in the more complex dances.


1.2 Timing and Counting

Counting of beats or steps is restricted to a maximum of eight. When counting steps, it is important to include pauses (sometimes refered to as a halt), that is beats during which no steps are taken. Table 1 below shows the letters, which are used to represent different counts of steps, allowing for pauses that are indicated by P.


Table 1. Timing and Counting Code



Description of Beat and Step Count



a single step. (1)



two steps on two beats. (1,2)



three steps. (1,2,3)



four steps. (1,2,3,4)



six steps. (1,...,6)



eight steps. (1,...,8)



Seven steps with a pause on the second (1,P,3,..,8)



one step with a pause on the second beat. (1,P)



two steps with a pause on the third beat. (1,2,P)



three steps with a pause on the fourth beat. (1,2,3,P)



five steps with a pause on the sixth beat (1, ,P)






seven steps with a pause on the eighth beat. (1,...,7,P)



three steps with a pause on the second beat. (1,P,3,4)



three steps with a pause on the third beat. (1,2,P,4)



To indicate fast (double rate) counting the code letter is underlined, and to indicate slow (half rate) counting the code letter is italicized and unbolded. The number of beats is correspondingly halved or doubled. Thus a BZ indicates a normal count of 1,2 followed by fast 1,2,3,P each occupying a total of two normal beats. A group of eight normal beats is indicated by a full stop (.), a colon (:) indicates two groups of eight and a semi-colon(;) indicates three groups of eight. A comma (,) is used to indicate a count of four. The counting and timing information is directly below the code for the steps and is aligned with the steps.

The start of a dance on the correct beat is most important and sometimes difficult to identify. To assist with this, the first entry in the timing line of most dances is used. The use of comma, (,) full stop, (.) semicolon (:) etc. indicates 4, 8, 16 etc. beats before the dance begins. Sometimes the first step is synchronized with the commencement of the singing. This is indicated by (L.) as the first entry in the timing line. A (L) indicates a subsequent start of the lyrics, (L+1). indicates a start one beat after the start of singing

The actual code for each dance includes two lines as shown below;


El Hachofesh {C} Avi Perez 93


L. B B W. S B. B B B. 2B B B. W . B B W. W 2B . W,


the second line is the timing and counting line, which has already been described in this section and defined in Table 1. It is important to realise that the same characters are used in the Main Code Line to represent actual steps. For example W and B represent a count of four steps and two steps in the timing line and walking and a balance in the code line as defined in Table 3.


1.3 Non Weight Transfer Actions

The dance actions can be basically divided into two types. The first type result in the transfer of weight from one foot to the other like walking (described by upper case letters, symbols and numbers) in the code. The second type does not result in the transfer of weight from one foot to the other like touching (described by lower case letters). The full range of non-weight transfer actions is given in Table 2 below with the default values (those that are assumed for direction and starting foot) shown in bold. The non weight transfer action is often described in a subscript and performed as an adjunct to a weight transfer step, e.g. walking three steps and a touch. If the walking begins with the right foot the touching action can only be performed by the non-weight bearing left foot. In such cases the foot is not normally identified.


Table 2. Non Weight Transfer Actions



knee down and up on both feet.


hop up and down on the right leg.


touch with the heel of the right foot.


kick with the right foot.


no action at all.


pivot half a turn clockwise / anti-clockwise.


stomp with the right foot with no transfer of weight.


touch with the right foot.


bring foot together without transferring weight.


lift the right leg up by bending of the knee.


sweep or brush the ground with the right foot.


short hop on both feet with the feet together/apart to bend knees.


1.4 Weight Transfer Steps

Table 3 below lists the full range of weight transfer steps together with their defaults highlighted. Unless stated otherwise the starting leg and direction of steps is assumed to be that of the defaults. Certain combinations of steps occur often in dances have been assigned a single code letter. In some cases described in Table 3 below, the weight transfer sequence is shown for the default values in square brackets.


Table 3. Weight Transfer Steps



Sideways step on the right leg in the anti-clockwise direction, while dragging the left.


Balancing from side to side beginning onto the right leg in the anti-clockwise direction


same as B but with a swaying action


Closing steps with a transfer of weight.


Debka steps consisting of the lifting and straightening of the right knee (kicking action) while bouncing on the left leg (on the count of one) followed by a step onto the right leg (on a count of two).The default direction is into the center. Debka steps are repeated with alternative feet.


Eshebo step consisting of a kick of the right foot across the body followed by a step onto the right leg and then onto the left leg, on a quick count of Z


Emphatic stomp with weight transfer onto the right leg


Grapevine step beginning with a step onto the right leg in an anti-clockwise direction, followed with the left crossing in front, onto the right leg and left crossing behind, etc.


A hop on the left leg with the right leg moving anti-clockwise with a transfer of weight to the right leg.


A jump from the left leg onto the right leg. Successive jumps onto alternative legs.[rlrl]


Facing in, Jump onto both feet sideways apart on one, and together on two.


Same as J, but with right leg in front and left behind on one, swapping positions on two.


Oriental half turn anti-clockwise beginning with the right leg pushing into the center rocking back onto the left on a count of two.


Polka three step with an emphasis on the first step beginning with a small jump onto the right leg followed by a quick left, right on the spot.


A "camel" hop. While facing in, on the count of one, hoping back onto the right leg while lifting the left leg, followed by straightening out and jumping back onto the left on two.


Rocking forward and backward alternatively beginning with the right leg into the center


Sideways step onto the right leg anti-clockwise while facing in, followed by actions as indicated by subscripts as described in later sections.


Sideways sliding step of the right leg anti-clockwise with the left sliding together and weight being transferred to the left leg.


A full clockwise turn beginning with the right leg


A full anti-clockwise turn beginning with the left leg


Same as T but used in partner dances to describe turns of the partners together.


Twisting action starting clockwise twist with most weight on the right leg.


Twisting action starting anti-clockwise with most weight on the right leg.


Walking beginning with the right leg, in the anti-clockwise direction


Running walk beginning with the right leg in the anti-clockwise direction


While facing in crossing with the left leg across the right and stepping onto it on one, rocking back onto the right leg on two and stepping on the left foot to the side of the right on three. Repeating in a mirror image .


Yemenite step consisting of a balance B on a count of two followed by cross with and step onto the right leg in front of the left on the count of three usually followed by a pause. Repeats in a mirror image.[rlrPlrlP]


Same as Y but with a substantial sideways travel in the subscript indicated direction


two steps forward beginning with the right foot in the anti-clockwise direction, with an anti-clockwise halt turn on the second step followed by two steps backwards. [rlrl]


three quick steps beginning with the right leg as executed for a Samba or Cha-Cha, in the anti-clockwise direction usually followed by a pause. The steps repeat with the other foot [rlrP], [lrlP].


Open and close three steps in partner dances with quarter turns anti-clockwise for the open and clockwise for the. The default starting foot being left.


Behind and in front while facing in beginning with a rocking action backwards onto the left leg, forward onto the right and the stepping onto the left leg inwards, all on a count of three, usually with a pause following i.e. [lrlP].


Same as & but travelling sideways in the anti-clockwise direction.


Same as & but in front and behind beginning with the right leg.

[ ]

A square four step while facing in, beginning with a jump onto the right leg, crossing with the left and stepping onto it on the count of two , stepping back onto the right backwards on three, and onto the left leg to the side on four. [rlrl]


1.5 Default Values for Partner Dances

Tables 2 and 3 show that the default starting foot is the right leg for all the steps with the exception of & and anti-clockwise turns. In partner dances, the male starts with the left foot. As a consequence, the default starting leg for the male part for all the steps except for & and turns is changed to be the left leg. The defaults for &, turns, twists and pivots remain unchanged with indicating anticlockwise e.g. T, p U and &. In a smaller percentage of partner dances most actions for the male begin with the right foot. In such a case a change in this default setting for a specific partner dance to be the same as for a circle dance is indicated by the insertion of the letter r before the start of the coding of the steps.


1.6 Step Modification

Subscripts are used to specify the selection of the foot and direction of movement. In additions they can be used to modify or combine steps. Table 4 shows the meaning of the subscripts used that are additional to those whose meaning has already been described.


Table 4. Action modifying subscripts



backwards or behind: E.g.. Wb = Walking backwards, Rb = rocking beginning with the first step being backwards, Gb = the first crossing step in the grapevine is behind.


in front: E.g.. Sbfb = Step, cross behind, step, cross in front, step, cross behind.


indicate the amount of turn or pivot. 1 = quarter, 2 = half,
3 = three quarter, 4 = full, 5= one and a quarter 6 = one and a half.


with crossing action: E.g. Wx = Walking with a crossing action of the right leg across the left and left across the right, Wx = Walking with a skating action, ie. side to side.


on both feet.

As a superscript e.g. W , Y, X indicates a lifting action during a pause.


The non-weight transfer actions listed in Table 2, (lower case letters), when used as subscript, each assume a single count, leaving the balance of the count to the balance of the step. E.g. Wh shows a total count of four with tree steps and a hop.

The weight transfer steps listed in Table 3, (upper case letters), when used as subscript to combine steps, e.g.. WiJ , SX , BT assume a count of two except:

In the instance that the step S is used as a subscript, the step is not sideways but is on the spot to maintain balance.

After allowing for the counts of all the subscripts the balance of the count is assumed for the step. The examples below illustrate the use of subscripts.

Eg.1 Wik Eg.2 Yh Eg.3 T2X Eg.4 Ti2Rb Eg5. Sbfb Eg6. SCX



Example 1: Walk beginning with the right leg into the center three, kick with the left on four.

Example 2: Yemenite right step (1,2,3) followed by a hop on the right leg (4).

Example 3: Clockwise half turn on three, continuing with a crossing and straightening action (4,5,6,7,8)

Example 4: Anti-clockwise turn into the center (1,2), rock backwards onto the left and back onto the right (3,4)

Example 5: Facing in, single step with the right anti-clockwise (1,P), step with the left behind the right (3), onto the right (4), cross with the left in front and step on it and pause (5,P), touch with the right and pause (7,P).

Example 6: A fast step together step pause in the anti-clockwise direction, with weight transfer [rlrP], on two beats, followed by a cross with the left and back on the right, on two beats.


1.6.1 The use of T and T as subscripts

When T is used as a subscript to S, the step assumes a count of one and serves as a spring for the turn, thus a step on to the right leg [r] is followed by an anti-clockwise turn [lr..], and a step onto the left leg [l] is followed by a clockwise turn [rl..].

When T is used as a subscript to B, the balance assumes a count of two with the second step serving as a spring for the turn. Thus a balance onto the right leg [rl] is followed by a clockwise turn [rl..], and a balance onto the left leg [lr] is followed by an anti-clockwise turn [lr..].


1.6.2 The use of X as a subscript

The crossing and straightening out sequence described in Table 3 by X starts sometimes with a sideways step that assumes a single count. This situation is represented by SX.

When the X sequence for example, follows a turn (typically on three steps) to a total count of eight, it is represented by TX . TX represents a turn on three with a crossing step on four.


XX represents a cross and cross step that continues in one direction with a cross, straightening out step, cross etc. The defaults are crossing with the left leg in the anti-clockwise direction. Some examples are shown below:


Eg.1 SXoT5X Eg.2 ST Eg.3 BlcT Eg.4 RTo


Example 1: Step out of the center with the right leg and continue crossing and straightening out sequence for the count up to three [rlr]. This is followed by a one and quarter turn anticlockwise turn into the center on a count of three [lrl]. Followed by a crossing and straightening sequence while facing in, beginning with the right leg in the clockwise direction up to the count of eight [rlrlr].

Example 2: Step on the right, pause on two, anti-clockwise turn on three and four [rPlr].

example 3: Balance clockwise onto left, back to the right on two, anti-clockwise turn on two.

Example 4: Rock in on two, full turn out clockwise on two.


1.7 Repetition of Steps

Repetition is a major feature of the dances that are coded. There are four ways used to show repetition. These are:

Brackets are used to enclose steps to be repeated with the number of repeats being 2, unless indicated by a numeric superscript on the enclosing bracket. Repetitions with a change of orientation are indicated by a subscript on the enclosing bracket showing the facing direction which can have values i, o, c, a. There are four different brackets to indicate different categories of repetition. These are:

When turns or pivots are included in either of the last two brackets, which involve changing in the starting foot for repeats, the direction of rotation of the repeated turns or pivots also change.

In some instances some steps of a dance are not included in a second or subsequent repetition of a section of a dance. This exclusion is shown by enclosing the steps to be left out by a pair of vertical lines. If the omission is not during the second round, a numeric subscript indicates the round. The forward slash / is used to indicate substitutions of steps and of counts on successive repetitions. The letter n is used in a situation when the substitution in a repetition has no steps. In a situation where there are more than two repeats which require different substitutions, multiple forward slashes are used to separate the substitution on successive repeats.

Greek letters a , b , d , g etc. are used as superscript on brackets to define the steps contained within those brackets. When the steps defined by the Greek letters are required in another part of a dance, the Greek letters are used in a normal format (not superscript) to represent those steps. Greek letter superscripts on a bracket that itself is in a superscript format indicates that there is no repetition indicated by that bracket and that the bracket serves merely to identify the steps being defined. Greek letter superscripts on brackets that are themselves not superscripts, include the repetition indicated by these brackets in the definition. The following example demonstrates the use of repetitions.



W . 2Z 2B B Z . Z/W.


The above example consists of a number of parts as follows: